Amid hopes manager will recover, U22s clinch cup

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Amid hopes manager will recover, U22s clinch cup

The Korean U22 team won the 2015 King’s Cup in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, on Saturday, amid hopes that their former manager Lee Kwang-jong will get better soon.

Lee flew back to Korea after suffering from a high fever in the middle of the tournament and was diagnosed with acute leukemia on his return. He abruptly stepped down from his position.

The Korean U22 team won the cup in the friendly tournament on Saturday by drawing in the last match against host country Thailand. Korea topped the rankings by winning its two previous matches against Uzbekistan and Honduras.

The Thai team overwhelmed the Koreans by firing 12 goal attempts in just the first half, but Korea managed to keep the match scoreless with its strong defense and goalie Lee Chang-keun’s superb saves.

This year’s title is more meaningful than ever given the ordeals the team suffered through in the tournament.

In the first match against the Uzbekistan Olympic team on Feb. 1, two of the Korean footballers were assaulted by Uzbek players. Jaloliddin Masharipov fought for a bouncing ball in the 77th minute and ended up kicking midfielder Kang Sang-woo in the chest.

Later, Uzbek Tohir Shamsitdinov flew into a rage and punched defender Sim Sang-min in the face three times after the two competed for the ball in the 87th minute. Both Uzbek competitors were sent off and Korea eventually won, 1-0.

But the Korean Olympic team’s biggest concern came after it beat the Honduras U20 team, 2-0, on Wednesday. Manager Lee came back to Korea alone on Wednesday and was subsequently diagnosed with acute leukemia and resigned on Thursday.

BY KIM BONG-MOON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]
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